Achille Laugé

Kenny Ackerman

Achille Laugé was a French Neo-Impressionist painter known for his sunlit landscapes, seascapes, and still life paintings. Laugé was born in 1861 in a village in the South of France. He began his artistic training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Toulouse in 1878, before entering the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1882. He enrolled in the studio of renowned history painter Alexandre Cabanel, where he befriended sculptor Aristide Maillol, with whom he shared a studio and maintained a life-long friendship. 

Laugé’s sojourn in 1880’s Paris exposed him to the work of the Neo-Impressionist avant-garde, including Seurat’s masterwork A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which attracted great interest when it was exhibited at the 1886 Salon des Indépendants. Laugé would adopt elements of Seurat’s style without imitating Seurat’s strict scientific method. This Pointilist, or Divisionist technique consists of juxtaposing small points of color on the canvas so that the colors are mixed not on the artist’s palette, but by the eyes of the viewer. Color was always paramount for Laugé; he worked in a vivid palette lending the impression that his compositions are bathed in sunlight.

After several years in Paris, Laugé returned to the South of France and established himself at Carcassonne, where he would remain for the rest of his life. In 1894, he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants, as well as at a Toulouse exhibition with other artists of his generation, including Pierre Bonnard, Paul Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. However, Laugé only rarely exhibited his work and infrequently visited the cities. In 1905, to facilitate his painting directly from nature, Laugé built a small caravan, fitted with large windows and a skylight, from which he would paint the surrounding countryside of the Languedoc region.

By this time, Laugé had adopted the looser brushwork, larger strokes, and thick impasto more associated with traditional Impressionism, while maintaining the brightness and airiness with which he captured the southern sunlight. He worked in both oil and pastel, always maintaining the primacy of color and careful study of tonal values. His relative isolation in the South meant that much of Laugé’s body of work was never seen by critics and collectors during his lifetime. However, his paintings now reside alongside works by Seurat and Paul Signac in the Musée National d’Art Moderne, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Musée du Louvre in Paris.